11 Plus Schools

11 Plus in Northern Ireland

The 11 Plus was officially discontinued in Northern Ireland, but has re-emerged as a different selective process. The original political intention had been to introduce fully comprehensive education in the region, but there was a fierce backlash from both grammar schools and parents to the imposition of what they described as a “one size fits all educational system”.

From the chaos some degree of order has been created, at least for the time being. The original Transfer Test was abolished in 2008. The annual tests are not run by the Department of Education but most primary schools in Northern Ireland have decided to continue with unofficial academic selection. Primary schools were not allowed to prepare children for those. They were prohibited from supplying support materials, coaching, test familiarisation. In September 2016, the Education Minister had decided to overturn that decision and gave primary schools the freedom to support pupils for preparation for the 11 plus but has decided against re-introducing a common departmental-run 11 plus test.

Two consortia of schools have emerged: the Association for Quality Education (AQE), and another group known as the Post Primary Transfer Consortium (PPTC). The GL Assessment exam which is run by the PPTC is mainly used by Catholic grammar schools, while the AQE is mainly used by other grammar schools. The entrance tests for the two consortiums differ, and there is a brief summary of both below.

The number of applicants to grammar schools continues to increase every year. Children can sit either test or both tests or choose not to sit either. For 2017 entry, there are 7,700 entrants for the AQE test and 6,981 for the GL Assessment test. That makes a total of 14,681. About 2000 will sit both tests. There 14,575 applicants for 2016 entry and there were 12,047 applications for GL/AQE for 2015 entry. Some schools accept both GL and AQE scores. Some schools are partially selective. Two voluntary grammar schools, Loreto College in Coleraine and St Patrick’s Grammar in Armagh no longer use academic selection.
Information on schools intake in previous years can be found HERE

The Post Primary Transfer Consortium

  1. The test is set by GL Assessment (formerly NFER)
  2. There is no charge to parents for their child to take the test
  3. Parents have to register an application with PPTC
  4. One Registration Form covers all the schools on the list
  5. Assessment outcomes are shared among the schools; children will not have to sit different assessments for different schools
  6. The test will take place in a Post Primary school. On the application is an option to select the most convenient Assessment centre
    You do not have to sit the test at the school you wish to apply to

The test will comprise:

  1. English: A 50 minute multiple choice paper of 60 questions, including 3 comprehension passages. There are also some spelling and punctuation questions. 60% of the marks are for the comprehension questions and 40% are for the other questions.
  2. Maths: A 45 minute multiple choice paper of 45 questions
  3. There will be a short practice paper before each main paper, and a short break between papers
  4. Papers will be marked by an optical reader

PPTC Admissions Information for 2020 Entry

Registration Opening dates Mon 13th May 2019
Registration Closing dates Fri 20th September 2019, 2pm
Entrance Assessment Sat 16th November 2019
Supplementary Entrance Assessment – 7th December 2019
Test Types Maths and English (multiple choice)
Sample English paper
Answer sheet
Sample Maths paper
Answer sheet
Specifications of the test
Examiner GL Assessment
Results posted Fri 24th January 2020. Candidates receive an overall grade A, B1, B2, C1, C2 or D and a standardised age score in both Maths and English. The grades are allocated on the basis of combined score of total of both. It is not possible to know what mark is required for a grade A. Standardised age scores have a scale of running from 69 to 141 with 100 as the mean. Candidates also receive a cohort percentile which is based on the combined total of standardised age scores.
Remarking 7th February 2020, 2.00pm – application request deadline
Allocation May/June 2020
Admissions PPTC
The Transfer Test
Recommended Practice Materials
PPTC Maths Practice Materials
PPTC English Practice Materials

Sample papers are available here and via the PPTC website.

The Association for Quality Education

  1. The test has been devised by CEA (Common Entrance Assessment) and there are sample papers available on their website. There are 34 grammar schools using the CEA.
  2. There is a charge of £48.00 for each child taking the test, although this is waived for children in receipt of free school meals.
  3. There is the option to sit the test in Irish
  4. Parents have to register an application with AQE. Application forms are available from the AQE website or office, from ‘The Transfer Test’ website or the schools.
  5. Children are invited to a Familiarisation day where they will see the hall and meet the person supervising. Usually children from the same primary schools sit together.
  6. Applicants can choose a school nearest to them to sit the test; it is not a requirement to choose the school you wish to apply to.
  7. There are three papers to give pupils the best opportunity to display their abilities. The best two marks are taken into account.
    A child has the option to only take 2 papers if he wishes. AQE recommends that children attend all 3 assessments, although the final score is achieved through best 2 out of 3; it is only compulsory to attend two assessments.
    Tests are held at participating Grammar schools, it does not need to be taken at the school you are applying to.

AQE Admissions Information for 2020 Entry

Registration Opens Wed 1st May 2019
Registration Closes Fri 6th September 2019
Test Dates AQE Paper 1 – Sat 9th November 2019
AQE Paper 2 – Sat 23rd November 2019
AQE Paper 3 – Sat 30th November 2019
Test Types Maths and English, both standard format
There are three 1 hour papers. Each paper includes both subjects. The test consists of standard format questions in Maths. The English consists of some multiple choice questions.
Maths- the questions relate to KS2 and will not exceed level 5 and contain number; measures; shape and space; and handling Data
Each paper has 64 questions counting for 64 marks, there are 32 marks for English and 32 marks for Maths
TEST FORMAT
For CEA test specification see the AQE
SAMPLE PAPERS
ANSWERS
Examiner CEA (Common Entrance Assessment)
Marks Each paper will be marked 3 times. 20% of the papers will be marked again and a further 20% is totalled again. All papers are totalled for a final time.
The best two scores will be taken and a mean standardised score will be calculated. The result is a standardised score, a whole number between 55 and 145 with a mean of 100. The highest score for 2016 entry was 129.
Results Sat 25th January 2020
Remarking Submission Deadline Mon 10th February 2020. There is a charge of re-marking.
Allocation May/June 2020
Admissions AQE
The Transfer Test
Recommended Practice Materials
AQE Maths Practice Materials
AQE English Practice Materials

The test will comprise:

  1. English – a poem and a prose passage
  2. English (Poem, Prose Passage), Maths and Basic Skills.
  3. Papers will be marked by hand.

Past assessment papers and sample papers are available to download from The Transfer Test website and
the AQE websites.

Schools in the Post Primary Transfer Consortium

Schools in the AQE Consortium

Belfast Area

North Eastern Area

South Eastern Area

Western Area

Southern Area

Information on this page was believed to be correct at the time of writing, but we would not necessarily be aware of subsequent changes unless someone brings them to our attention.
Before acting on any information given here, please verify that it is up to date.

Page updated on 18th June 2019

Maths Practice Materials For Northern Ireland PPTC

Mathematics Practice

English Practice Materials For Northern Ireland PPTC

English Practice

Maths Practice Materials For Northern Ireland AQE

Mathematics Practice

English Practice Materials For Northern Ireland AQE

English Practice

Related Links

N Ireland 11 Plus Forum…

External Links

Schools in the Post Primary Transfer Consortium

Schools in the AQE Consortium